A nice, scenic drive is found in a day trip to Kailua Kona. The drive is about 65 miles and takes about 90 minutes. You will pass through Na’alehu, just about 8 miles west, where a good place to stop is the Punaluu Bakery. On the Saturday we were there they were having their grand re-opening. The shop and grounds have been remodeled and now have a very nice outdoor eating area behind the bakery shop. The bake shop is known for its sweet bread.
Stop by the old theatre in town and take a quick tour inside. There are some very good exhibits depicting early theatre operations in Hawaii. A new Mexican restaurant is located at the entrance to the theatre. Adriana’s serves good Mexican food for a very reasonable price. There are free movies Friday and Saturday evenings at the theatre and Adriana runs the place.
Six miles further down the road is the turnoff for Ka Lae or South Point, the southernmost point in the United States. Once off the highway, the trip is 11 miles to the end of the road. On the road to South Point you will pass through the Kamoa Wind Farm, a field of huge mechanical windmills. This is a testament to how well the wind blows in this area.
Back on the highway and further on you will come to Ocean View, a community built literally on top of a recent lava flow. It is made up of four subdivisions contained in an area roughly 6 miles up the mountain and 3 miles down, toward the ocean. Along the highway are a few services, but for the most part, the people who live in this area prefer to be left alone.
A nice place to stop and take a hike is at Manuka State Wayside. It is located about 12 miles from South Point. There are restrooms located here and a place to picnic. There is a 2-mile trail through a native forest
Just past this point, the highway begins to get more curves and the speed limit slows to 35 mph. Many times we have encountered rain in this area, so heed the speed limit and enjoy the forested area.
Soon you will come upon many small communities and eventually come to Captain Cook. Captain Cook is the first of the big towns you will encounter south of Kona. This area is fun and easy to explore.
Kailua Kona is situated on Kailua Bay and stretches for miles along the coast. Alii Drive is the main street that runs along the waterfront. Find a free parking spot off of Alii Drive and get out on foot to enjoy this town's waterfront area. Sights include the King Kamehameha Hotel and the Kailua Pier, where fishing boats and sightseeing boats dock. Take time to visit Hulihe’e Palace, located directly on the water's edge. This is a two-story structure of Victorian style that dates back to about 1838. It was used until 1914 as a summer palace for the Hawaiian monarchy.
For a good meal with a view, stop by Pancho and Lefty’s Cantina and Restaurant. It is located at 75-5719 Alii Drive, upstairs. They have many tables along the rail overlooking the bay and Huluhe’e Palace. This restaurant has all your favorite dishes and large portions at a price that won’t leave you looking for a loan to get out of the place.